Our civilization has collectively sleep-walked itself into a totally unsustainable position, one that is in large measure a death trap for ourselves and other species. The deeper we dig ourselves into this hole, the fewer escape routes remain. The systems and structures we have created are funneling us towards a vanishing point that is now becoming clear to many, just as the machine begins to fail.
Even in the face of this awesome possibility, however, we must recognize the power of the human spirit, especially in the collective. When we decide together to change, we can turn our culture on a dime. The force that binds us together in such an effort is not reason, logic, shared information or rational self-interest. It is awakened spirit.
That awakened spirit is inaccessible to the forces shaping the culture that binds us in a collective myth. Indeed it cannot even be understood by those governing institutions except as a vaguely threatening shadow flitting in and out of their awareness. That formless spirit is what moves the mountains of hierarchy, as it did in the Soviet Union, in Eastern Europe, in the Europe of the Renaissance, in the America of Abolition and Civil Rights.
I would even go further than that. I now view the transformation that's occurring around the planet, as documented by such writers as Paul Hawken and Andrew Harvey, in frankly spiritual terms. I see it as a mystical transfiguration, born out of the stresses and traumas (known by mystics as the Dark Night of the Soul) that we have visited upon ourselves in this civilization we have created.
This awakening is much more profound than just looking around and saying, "Oh crap, we ate all the fish!" It is a softly stirring recognition at the very deepest levels of our collective psyche that we have been telling ourselves the wrong story about who we are. It is the nascent realization that our focus on materialism in all things (including our science and our spirituality) has seduced us out into a karmic wasteland. It is also the dawning recognition that another story is possible, and that we are already creating it. It is the blossoming awareness that our shared souls have the power to reshape the world at an Essential level.
If my perception is correct then this Awakening holds the promise of much more power than a simple recognition of community would confer. More than just accessing the power of human connection, it is in some way opening up the human endeavor to the sacred or the divine (whatever those words mean for each of us).
This is still very unfamiliar territory for me, as up to a year ago I was the hardest-nosed atheist you've ever met. Nonetheless, the truth of it resonates within me more deeply than anything I've ever felt. If this is in some general way true, and not just my personal response to despair, then humanity may very well be on the brink of something magical.
I hope with all my heart that this is indeed true. I intend to act as though it is.
I am a Canadian ecologist with a passionate interest in outside the box responses to the converging crisis of industrial civilization.
The crisis of civilization is not simply a convergence of technical, environmental and organizational problems. These are symptoms that are themselves being driven by a philosophical and perceptual disconnection so deep that it is best understood as a spiritual breakdown. The disconnection goes by the name of Separation.
Our sense of separation is what allows us to see ourselves as different from and superior to the rest of the apparently non-rational universe we live in. In this worldview the complex mutual interdependence of all the elements of the universe is replaced by a simple dualistic categorization: there are human beings, and everything else in the universe—without exception—is a resource for us to use.
The only way to keep this planet, our one and only home in the universe, from being ultimately ravaged and devastated is to change our worldview and heal our sense of separateness. Unless we can manage that breathtaking feat all the careful application of technology, all the well-intentioned regulations, all the unbridled cleverness of which we are so proud will do little to delay the final outcome, and nothing whatever to prevent it.
My desire is to find ways to heal that sense of separation, with the goal of helping us prepare for ecological adulthood.